Monday, September 21, 2015

Making a Cover: The Quill Pen

I recently finished a cover for a super awesome client of mine, Michelle Isenhoff, and I thought it would be fun to show my process in creating the art. Kind of a step by step. Although I don't have ALL the steps I think you'll get the gist of what exactly I do when I digitally paint art for a cover. Before I even start my first step I have to get a feel for the book. Most of the time I just get a couple short sections to read through or just a blurb. Because I don't have a lot of time to sit down a read a whole book this is what I prefer. Michelle decided to make it easy on me and she recorded the book so I could listen in audio--which made it easy for me to read the whole book while working on other things.  It was a win-win. Once I have read the material I start to brood over the book. I like to ponder it for several days and see if I can come up with a really cool image. Then comes step one: I come up with a sketch idea. For Michelle I came up with two and she selected which one she felt best fit the book and competed the most with her genre's market.

This is sketch option 1: (Remember these are rough sketches but you get a sense of the final outcome of the book with it).

Here is sketch option 2: (This is the one Michelle felt best fit for her book)

Next I did a finer sketch. Just adding in a few more details and fixing up some things. This gave Michelle some time to make a few changes in the preliminary stage. She asked that I add glasses to Micah (the MC in this story).

Next I paint. While I didn't manage to hold on to a layer of just the flat layers of paint my first step is to lay down all the colors I will use through the piece. After I lay down the basic colors I start with shadows then highlights. The whole purpose it to find three layers of light (a dark, medium, and light). This one here showcases the painting's back ground and also the main front image of the boy and girl without the final highlights.

Next the fun stuff happens. One of my clients calls this "the fairy dust". It's basically just a brighter layer of color but it does certainly add a magical element to the art.

Finally I add a little more color, definition, and detail and I have the final piece painted.

The final step is to add the typography and finish up the spine and back matter. In the end you have a super fun cover for a super cool middle-grade read.

About the book:
If you owned a pen that wrote the future, would you use it? What if the consequences spread like ripples in a pond? What if they raged out of control? What if the pen demanded blood?

Thirteen-year-old Micah has found such a pen. One that’s ensnared him in a curse dating back generations. One that’s devastated two families and now threatens his whole New England village. But how can Micah destroy the pen when it offers him his only chance at the future he dreams of?

Where to buy:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Last Book of My Summer

As my summer reading comes to a close I can’t help but think about all the fun I had along the way. I visited fantasy worlds, became a spy, became a witch, became a child again lost to an adventure. Books are amazing vehicles that can lead you just about anywhere. Reading is not over for me! I am already building my list of books I want to tear through this fall. I’ll be sure to let you in on some of the books I’ll be reading and the impacts they made on me.

I ended my summer off with a book I have had for a while but never had the opportunity to read until now.  
The Clockwork Three, by Matthew Kirby is a super fun book. It takes place in an altered history during the early 1900’s. While I would classify this as steampunk it’s not as “steampunky” as other books I’ve read. Yes there is mention of a mechanical man and one of the kids works as a clockmaker but that’s about how far this book delves into the steampunk category. It is filled with heart racing moments as kids run for their very lives, but overall it is a story about friendship and the love of family. I love how the author explored the grittier parts of the cities, the tenements, the street urchins, and unlawful practices of child enslavement. It hinted at books like Oliver Twist and August Rush. I also enjoyed the nods he gave to the supernatural with fun character Madame Pomphrey and the magical green violin. Over all I loved the braiding of the three stories of Giuseppe, Hannah, and Fredrick into one and how they all came together to create a fun and moving mystery. I recommend this book to not only middle-grade readers but adults. This movie would make a fun movie.

Summary: Giuseppe is an orphaned street musician from Italy, who was sold by his uncle to work as a slave for an evil padrone in the U.S. But when a mysterious green violin enters his life he begins to imagine a life of freedom. Hannah is a soft-hearted, strong-willed girl from the tenements, who supports her family as a hotel maid when tragedy strikes and her father can no longer work. She learns about a hidden treasure, which she knows will save her family -- if she can find it. And Frederick, the talented and intense clockmaker's apprentice, seeks to learn the truth about his mother while trying to forget the nightmares of the orphanage where she left him. He is determined to build an automaton and enter the clockmakers' guild -- if only he can create a working head. Together, the three discover they have phenomenal power when they team up as friends, and that they can overcome even the darkest of fears.

Next on my reading list:
Wonder, by R. J. Palacio (a MG read) and Storm Moon, by Teri Harmon (a YA about witches!)

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Afterlife Academy

Every now and then I hear about a new book coming out and I can hardly wait to get my hands on a copy. Not only does The Afterlife Academy sound incredibly awesome (read the synopsis below) but the author, Frank L. Cole, is one amazing guy. He never misses an opportunity to make someone else feel special—yeah, he’s one of those guys. Not only is he super nice, but he’s supper funny (as in he tells lots of jokes, not that he’s funny looking). This book is coming just in time for the new school season and it’s ripe for some pre-Halloween fun. A kid pleaser for sure!

Want to meet the author? Frank L. Cole is having TWO incredible book launch parties and everyone is invited to come get a book and have some fun. The first is on Thursday, September 10th at the Jordan Landing Barnes and Noble (7157 Plaza Center Dr, West Jordan, UT, 84084) starting at 6:30 pm. The second is Tuesday, September 15th at The King’s English (1511 1500 E, Salt Lake City, UT, 84105) starting at 7:00 pm. 

Walter Prairie knows how to deal with bullies. He just has to beat them to the punch. But he doesn’t see the biggest hit of his life coming when he is struck dead by a bolt of lightning. Before Walter even knows what’s happened, he is sent to a Categorizing office, fast-tracked through the Afterlife Academy, and assigned as a Guardian Agent to protect a High-Level Target.

Walter's HLT, Charlie Dewdle, isn’t exactly the most popular kid in school. He’s what you might call paranormally obsessed. When Charlie finds an ancient book with spells that can be used to open the Gateway for demons to wreak havoc on earth, it’s up to him and Walter to fight an eclectic horde of enemies and protect humankind at all costs.

But saving the world isn’t so easy. Especially when your protector doesn’t know the first thing about the Underworld, bullies like Mo Horvath are trying to hunt you down, pretty and popular Melissa Bittner is suddenly talking to you, and your parents think you’re going crazy.

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Reading Adrenaline Rush

I love books that have a fitting title. Adrenaline Rush, by Cindy M. Hogan, is one of those books whose title screams exactly what the book is about: exciting-heart-pounding-thrill-seeking-RUSH. This book will put you on the edge of your seat and you won’t sit back until the very last sentence is read. Seriously, it’s that good! It had me staying up late, forgetting about the time, and just reading. Cindy Hogan is a master at creating suspense and that longing for a happy ending. I think her best talent, especially with this book, is the voice of Christy (aka Misha). There are few authors that can pull off a voice so real you forget what you’re reading is fiction. You become swallowed up into the world of spies and freaky criminals (I say freaky because what Christy goes through in this book is CRAZY—the Circus of Feats…um never EVER sign me up for that). I thoroughly enjoyed the underlining theme in the book that hinted at faith and one’s trial of faith. I can’t say too much on the subject because it will spoil most of the book but I believe it was the most powerful element in the book. There comes a time in every hero’s journey that the hero (or in our case heroine) break—too much causes them to lose their faith in themselves and their belief in God and so they stop. Christy is no different. But it’s her unique struggle with her faith will make you sit up and take notice. Yes, this book is a super rush of adrenaline as you read, but you also come away with a better sense of about yourself because you’ve connected with Christy and she’s made you take a long look in the mirror evaluating what makes you so strong. Few books can accomplish both. Yes, I have already started the next book!

Synopsis: A madman with a mission is kidnapping groups of thrill-seeking high school seniors across the country, and it's up to Christy to stop him. To do so, she must take on a fearless alter ego and infiltrate a group of adrenaline junkies bent on pushing life to the limit. Death-defying stunts are only the beginning: two groups fit the profile, and Christy must discover the real target before it's too late. If she chooses the wrong group, more people will disappear. But choosing right puts her as the prime target—with no guarantee that she'll get out alive. Full of action and adventure, mystery, and suspense that is guaranteed to thrill teens and adults alike.

Other books by Cindy M. Hogan:

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Even More Summer Reading

Everyone knows how much I love audiobooks. If you don’t, you do now. I think audiobooks are better than just plain old reading. It’s almost like going and seeing a theatrical production of the book. If the narrator is good you get different voices for all the characters and soon forget you are listening to a book at all. It’s quite the experience. So why not throw in some audiobooks into your mix? I listen to them while working, driving, or cleaning. Give it a try. You can start with this insightful read about a girl’s struggle to overcome racists-prejudice in this pre-Civil War story, The Candle Star, written by Michelle Isenhoff and narrated by Fred Wolinsky.

Here are my answers to the questions ask by Audible when I reviewed this book:

If you could sum up The Candle Star in three words, what would they be?
Thought-provoking, entertaining, well-written

Who was your favorite character and why?
Emily Preston is the main character in this book and for the first few pages you want to pull her over your knee and give her a sound whooping (note: I do not condone spanking but this girl really needs one). She is one of those characters that you just down right hate. She is spoiled, selfish, and very set in her ways. You don’t expect that she will ever change and just when you are about to give up hope on her your see another quality; Emily cares for others. She has compassion and it soon grows into something strong enough to help her change for the better.

Which character – as performed by Fred Wolinsky – was your favorite?
There were several he did a wonderful job with. I liked his impression of Emily. Her southern bell accent was spot on. I also enjoyed all the black folks. He really brought a "real" aspect to the book. His best overall voice I think was the wicked Mr. Burrows, which he did so well.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
This book really made me think and think hard. Are we all sometime like Emily Preston? Do we ignore bad things because that’s the way things have always been? Do we put ourselves above others because we feel more entitled to things? The one thing that stood out above anything else is that our prejudices are not limited to race; at least not for Emily. She not only sees the colored folks as beneath her, but those with a lower class than herself. She sees servants, white or black, as nobodies; even the people in the north because they do not see things as she. This prejudice is so extreme she is willing to destroy someone else’s happiness to see the classes don’t mix. How often do we ourselves do this? Michelle Isenhoff makes you sit back and take stock of the type of person Emily is and how to avoid becoming this way.

Any additional comments?
Overall I believe this is a book that every kid should read. I love the nods at actual things that transpired during this time in history: the mention of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the slave trade, and the underground railroad. The way these were written really show the author did her homework. I am anxious to read the rest of the books in this series. 

Summary: After a tantrum, Emily Preston is shipped from her plantation home to her inn-keeping uncle in Detroit. There she meets Malachi, son of freed slaves, who challenges many ideas she grew up believing. But when Emily stumbles upon two runaways hidden in her uncle's barn, she finds that old ways die hard. And Mr. Burrows, the charming Southern slave catcher, is only yards away, lodged in the hotel.

Swashbuckling Summer Reading

Who doesn’t love a good story about the sea with swashbuckling tales of pirates, sword fights, and treasure? I think with the popularity of films like The Pirates of the Caribbean (now onto its 5 movie!) it’s safe to say, everyone loves these kinds of stories! The book I just finished reading you won’t find Captain Jack Sparrow or Captain Barbossa, it’s not a tale of stolen Aztec treasure, or even a quest to claim a mermaid’s tears, but it is just as moving, gripping, and much, much more real. The Swift, by Alex Banks, is a story about loss, family, friendships, and above all hope. Yes, there is plenty of fighting, adventure, sea-talk, and pirates, but all that is just the icing on the cake.

What I loved most about this book was how real the characters are. The main character, Pete, has such raw emotions throughout the book you can’t help but feel them yourself. I rarely read a middle-grade book where the characters have such power in their emotions, such realness. I found myself angry when Pete was angry, sad when he was sad, and I choked up plenty of times when Pete cried. This book had me flipping the pages and consuming the tale in no time at all. Normally I’m a slow reader, with work, kids, sleeping; I take days and days to finish a book. This one I had read in two days because it hooks you in with mystery and gives you adventure. I will be adding this to my collection beloved pirate books; it will rest alongside Treasure Island and Peter and the Starcatchers.

Summary: The night eleven-year-old Pete planned to shoot the winning goal in the championship hockey game was the same night his dad was lost at sea. Now, eight months later, his mom still cries all the time, his beloved grandfather, stricken with Alzheimer’s, can’t even remember him, and they’re about to lose their crappy old house to the bank. To make matters worse, his twin brother Henry blames Pete for all of it. After all, they were a family of fishermen—if Pete had gone to help on the boat instead of to the game, their dad might still be alive. While searching the attic for stuff they can sell, Pete finds a battle-torn ship-in-a-bottle. When he and Henry show the bottle to their grandpa, the three of them are transported back in time—on board the very ship that’s going down.  Battling pirates and the raging sea, the boys must learn to work together to help their grandpa save his past. If they don’t, they won’t have a future to return to.

Another great read by Alex Banks is SOS BOYS. Which I read last summer and loved! This one is a story in space and it's just as fun and gripping as this one!

A Little about Alex Banks: Alex Banks likes to say she holds a black belt in awesome since the only kind of kicking-butt she does is on paper. She lives in Utah with her kickin' husband, two sparring sons, one ninja cat, one samurai dog and four zen turtles. Alex writes Young Adult and New Adult fiction (suitable for readers over fourteen) under the name Ali Cross.